Josh Tongue hails Jonny Bairstow ‘a hero’ for his swift response to protesters
Jonny Bairstow was hailed “a hero” by England team-mate Josh Tongue after his quick intervention prevented Just Stop Oil protesters potentially wrecking the opening day of the second Ashes Test.
Bairstow took matters into his own hands when two men from the activist group ran onto the field armed with orange paint dust in a clear attempt to halt the match after the first over of the morning.
Wicketkeeper Bairstow, a keen rugby league player in his younger days, ran to meet one of the protesters and lifted them off their feet before carting them over the boundary edge.
Having handed them over to the stewards, Bairstow headed to the pavilion to change his orange-stained whites, but his quick thinking may well have prevented a much lengthier delay had the paint made it as far as the wicket.
The other protester, who attracted the attention of England captain Ben Stokes, was intercepted by security staff, while another was apprehended in the stands. All three were arrested.
Ashes debutant Tongue, who claimed two wickets in Australia’s 339 for five, admitted he would not have been as brave as Bairstow.
He told Sky Sports: “Jonny doing what he did, who knows, the game could have been called off.
“Bit of a hero to be fair. If he didn’t stop him, they could’ve got on the pitch and done something to the pitch.
“For myself, I wouldn’t probably go towards them just in case they had anything else on them. Obviously Jonny doing that, maybe he shouldn’t have done that, but I don’t know the protocol.”
Australian opener David Warner was at the crease when the protesters entered the pitch and was briefly ready to engage in stopping them alongside England’s captain Stokes.
“Me and Stokesy didn’t really know what to do,” Warner reflected after hitting 66. “We’d been warned beforehand that it might happen. It’s a touchy situation.
“It was quite confronting because you don’t know what to do in that situation, you usually let those people run their course but because they could potentially damage the wicket, we felt like we had to intervene.
“We were actually told to stand away and be careful, but we know what they’re trying to do to the wicket so it was about – not manhandling them like Jonny – but it was about protecting the wicket.
“I don’t know what that chalk does to the wicket but it would have been a long delay and we wouldn’t have wanted that.”
An official spokesman for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak praised Bairstow’s actions earlier on Wednesday, saying: “These sorts of selfish, guerrilla tactics that target events bringing joy to millions are exactly why the Government brought in new powers so the police can take swift action.
“The Prime Minister is pleased play was able to resume quickly and thanks security staff, the swift hands of Jonny Bairstow and other England players who stepped in.”
Broadcasters largely chose not to highlight the incident, but former Australia captain Ricky Ponting offered one cheeky reference in the morning session.
“I didn’t want to say anything, but the one chance that’s come Jonny’s way, he’s held on to so far,” Ponting joked on Sky Sports.
A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police said on Twitter: “We are aware of protesters on the Lord’s Cricket Ground pitch today, Wednesday, 28 June. Police have arrested three people and taken them into custody.”
Guy Lavender, chief executive of the Marylebone Cricket Club, which owns Lord’s, criticised those involved.
He said: “MCC condemn in the strongest possible terms today’s pitch incursion and with the behaviour of the protesters involved.
“Their actions not only endanger themselves and those who work at the ground, but they have consistently shown complete disregard for the people who pay to attend events, not just here at Lord’s but around the country at other sporting venues.”
Just Stop Oil said on Twitter: “At 11am, three Just Stop Oil supporters stormed the pitch at Lord’s Cricket Ground in a cloud of orange powder paint and disrupted the #Ashes2023 Second Test between England and Australia.”
Just Stop Oil protesters previously delayed England’s arrival for day one of their one-off Test against Ireland on June 1 by standing in front of their team coach outside their Kensington hotel.
Bairstow highlighted the incident at the time by posting a picture on his Instagram story.
Just Stop Oil protesters also disrupted the Gallagher Premiership final at Twickenham between Saracens and Sale last month, while a similar incident occurred at the Crucible during the World Snooker Championship in April.